reflections, updates and homilies from Deacon Mike Talbot inspired by the following words from my ordination: Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach...
Feastday: May 28 Patron of mountaineers, skiers, the Alps Birth: 923 Death: 1008
Bernard of Montjoux was probably born in Italy. He became a priest, was made Vicar General of Aosta, and spent more than four decades doing missionary work in the Alps. He built schools and churches in the diocese but is especially remembered for two Alpine hospices he built to aid lost travelers in the mountain passes named Great and Little Bernard, after him. The men who ran them in time became Augustinian canons regular and built a monastery. The Order continued into the twentieth century. He was proclaimed the patron saint of Alpinists and mountain climbers by Pope Pius XI in 1923. He is sometimes fallaciously referred to as Bernard of Menthon and the son of Count Richard of Menthon, which he was not. His feast day is May 28th.
Bernard became patron and protector of skiers because of his four decades spent in missionary work throughout the Alps.
After many years of traveling here since I have family in the area, Wendy and I have settled for our Catholic home away from home.
We went to Mass today at 7:30 am here at St. Pius X.
What strikes me is this is just not a small Catholic presence in a generally non-Catholic part of the country; no, far from it. St Pius appears to me to be a very alive, on fire, robust Catholic community in a part of North Carolina, and the deep south, changing rapidly to more Catholic!
Pope Francis on May 27, 2028, asked for continued prayers for peace in Africa, noting the proclaiming blessed of Leonella Sgorbati, Consolata Missionary Sister, on May 26, 2018, at Piacenza, Italy.
Sister Sgorbati was “killed out of hatred of the faith in Mogadishu (Somalia), in 2006,” the Holy Father said. “Her life — spent for the Gospel and at the service of the poor –, as well as her martyrdom, represent a pledge of hope for Africa and for the whole world. Let us pray together for Africa, that there may be peace there.”
Sister Sgorbati was murdered on September 17, 2006. Her last words, as she lay dying of gunshot wounds, were: “I forgive, I forgive.” Pope Benedict XVI said at the time that he hoped that the death would be “a seed of hope” for a better future.
Leonella Sgorbati was born in Gazzola, Piacenza, Italy, on Dec. 9, 1940. She joined the Consolata Missionary Sisters in San Fre, Cuneo, in May 1963 and took her perpetual vows in November 1972.
After nursing school in England (1966-1968), she was appointed to Kenya, where she arrived in September 1970. From then until 1983 she served alternately at Consolata Hospital Mathari, Nyeri, and Nazareth Hospital in Kiambu on the northern outskirts of Nairobi.
In mid-1983, Sister Leonella started her advanced studies in nursing and in 1985 became the principal tutor at the school of nursing attached to Nkubu Hospital, Meru.
In November 1993 she was elected regional superior of the Consolata Missionary Sisters in Kenya, a duty she performed for six years.
After a sabbatical, in 2001 she spent several months in Mogadishu, looking at the possibility of setting up a nursing school in the hospital run by the SOS Village organization.
Hermann Gnemer School of Registered Community Nursing opened in 2002, with Sister Leonella in charge. The first 34 nurses graduated from the school this year, awarded certificates and diplomas by the World Health Organization because Somalia has had no government since 1991.
Sister Leonella was keen to train tutors for the nursing school. She returned to Kenya with three of her newly graduated nurses, to register them for further training at a medical training college.
She faced difficulties in obtaining her own re-entry visa to Mogadishu, due to the new rules of the Islamic courts that now control the city and its environs. She managed to return to Mogadishu on Sept. 13.
Bert Ghezzi on the Meaning Behind the Ancient Gesture
LAKE MARY, Florida, NOV. 24, 2004 (Zenit) - The simple gesture that Catholics make thousands of times in their lives has a deeper meaning most of them don't realize.
Now, the multifaceted significance of the sign of the cross has been investigated and explained by Bert Ghezzi, author of "Sign of the Cross: Recovering the Power of the Ancient Prayer" (Loyola Press).
He told us how the sign came about, what six meanings it has and why making it reverently can enhance one's life in Christ.
Q: When did the sign of the cross originate?
Ghezzi: The sign of the cross is a very ancient practice and prayer. We don't have any indication of it in Scripture, but St. Basil in the fourth century said that we learned the sign from the time of the apostles and that it was administered in baptisms. Some scholars interpret St. Paul's saying that he bears the marks of Christ on his body, in Galatians 6:17, as his referring to the sign of the cross.
In the book, I note that the sign originates close to Jesus' time and goes back to the ancient Church. Christians received it in baptism; the celebrant signed them and claimed them for Christ.
Q: How did it become such an important liturgical and devotional practice?
Ghezzi: I speculate that when adult Christians were baptized, they made the sign of the cross that claimed them for Christ on their forehead proudly.
Tertullian said that Christians at all times should mark their foreheads with the sign of the cross. I can imagine that Christians would make a little sign of the cross with their thumb and forefinger on their foreheads, to remind themselves that they were living a life for Christ.
Q: Beyond the words themselves, what does the sign mean? Why is it a mark of discipleship?
Ghezzi: The sign means a lot of things. In the book, I describe six meanings, with and without words. The sign of the cross is: a confession of faith; a renewal of baptism; a mark of discipleship; an acceptance of suffering; a defense against the devil; and a victory over self-indulgence.
When you make the sign, you are professing a mini version of the creed -- you are professing your belief in the Father, and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit. When you say the words and pray in someone's name you are declaring their presence and coming into their presence -- that's how a name is used in Scripture.
As a sacramental, it's a renewal of the sacrament of baptism; when you make it you say again, in effect, "I died with Christ and rose to new life." The sign of the cross in baptism is like a Christian circumcision, which united Gentile converts to the Jewish nation. The sign links you to the body of Christ, and when you make it you remember your joining to the body with Christ as the head.
The sign of the cross is a mark of discipleship. Jesus says in Luke 9:23, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." The word that the Fathers of the Church used for the sign of the cross is a Greek word that is the same as what a slave owner put on a slave, a shepherd put on a sheep and a general put on a soldier -- it's a declaration that I belong to Christ.
Self-denial is not just giving up little things; to be a disciple you are under Christ's leadership and you don't belong to yourself. By doing the sign of the cross, you're saying to the Lord, "I want to obey you; I belong to you. You direct all my decisions. I will always be obedient to God's law, Christ's teachings and the Church."
When suffering comes, the sign of the cross is a sign of acceptance. It's remembering that Jesus became a man and suffered for us and that we participate in Christ's suffering. The sign of the cross says, "I am willing to embrace suffering to share in Christ's suffering."
When you're suffering, when you're feeling like God is not there, the sign of the cross brings him there and declares his presence whether you feel it. It is a way of acknowledging him at that time of trial.
One of the main teachings of the early Church Fathers is that the sign of the cross is a declaration of defense against the devil. When you sign yourself, you are declaring to the devil, "Hands off. I belong to Christ; he is my protection." It's both an offensive and defensive tool.
I've found that the sign of the cross is a way to put to death self-indulgence -- those big problems we have, the stubborn things we can't get rid of. The Church Fathers say if you are angry, full of lust, fearful, emotional or grappling with fleshly problems, make the sign when tempted and it will help dispel the problem.
I began to make it to gain control with a problem with anger. Signing myself is a way of destroying the anger, putting on patient behavior, imitating Jesus' practice of virtue.
Q: Do non-Catholics use the sign of the cross?
Ghezzi: Yes, the sign of the cross is used by Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians, particularly in baptisms. In his small catechism, Martin Luther recommends making the sign of the cross at bedtime and first thing in the morning.
It's a shame that many non-Catholics see it as something they shouldn't be doing; it comes from an ancient Church that we all share. One of my hopes in writing this book is that non-Catholics will read it and share in the sign of the cross.
Q: Why do Catholics use the sign of the cross with holy water upon entering and exiting a church?
Ghezzi: In order to participate in the great sacrifice of the Mass, you need to be baptized. Using holy water to sign yourself is saying "I am a baptized Christian and I am authorized to participate in this sacrifice."
When you make the sign of the cross when you leave, you say that the Mass never ends -- your whole life is participating in Christ's sacrifice.
Q: Why should Christians learn more about this prayer?
Ghezzi: I think that it's not something to be taken casually. The sign of the cross has enormous power as a sacramental; it does not cause the spiritual thing it signifies but draws on the prayer of the Church to affect us in our lives. The sign of the cross is the supreme sacramental.
When I see professional athletes make the sign of the cross during games, I'm not critical of them. It says that everything I do, I do in the name of Christ -- even games can be played in the presence of God.
When people make the sign of the cross casually, I pray that they will recognize how serious it is -- that they are declaring that they belong to Christ, they want to obey him and accept suffering. It's not a good-luck charm.
Q: Why is the sign of the cross significant today, especially in areas where laws are becoming less tolerant of public displays of faith?
Ghezzi: They can tell us that we can't have the Ten Commandments in a public building, but they can't stop us from making the sign of the cross publicly. We need to remember what Jesus said: If we are ashamed of him, he'll be ashamed of us.
We should feel confident in letting people know that we are Christians and that we belong to Christ.
At the end of the sixth century anyone would have said that Augustine had found his niche in life. Looking at this respected prior of a monastery, almost anyone would have predicted he would spend his last days there, instructing, governing, and settling even further into this sedentary life.
But Pope St. Gregory the Great had lived under Augustine's rule in that same monastery. When he decided it was time to send missionaries to Anglo-Saxon England, he didn't choose those with restless natures or the young looking for new worlds to conquer. He chose Augustine and thirty monks to make the unexpected, and dangerous, trip to England.
Missionaries had gone to Britain years before but the Saxon conquest of England had forced these Christians into hiding. Augustine and his monks were to bring these Christians back into the fold and convince the warlike conquerors to become Christians themselves.
Every step of the way they heard the horrid stories of the cruelty and barbarity of their future hosts. By the time they had reached France the stories became so frightening that the monks turned back to Rome. Gregory had heard encouraging news that England was far more ready for Christianity than the stories would indicate, including the marriage of King Ethelbert of Kent to a Christian princess, Bertha. He sent Augustine and the monks on their way again fortified with his belief that now was the time for evangelization.
King Ethelbert himself wasn't as sure, but he was a just king and curious. So he went to hear what the missionaries had to say after they landed in England. But he was just as afraid of them as they were of him! Fearful that they would use magic on them, he held the meeting in the open air. There he listened to what they had to say about Christianity. He did not convert then but was impressed enough to let them continue to preach -- as long as they didn't force anyone to convert.
They didn't have to -- the king was baptized in 597. Unlike other kings who forced all subjects to be baptized as soon as they were converted, Ethelbert left religious a free choice. Nonetheless the following year many of his subjects were baptized.
Augustine was consecrated bishop of the English and more missionaries arrived from Rome to help with the new task. Augustine had to be very careful because, although the English had embraced the new religion they still respected the old. Under the wise orders of Gregory the Great, Augustine aided the growth from the ancient traditions to the new life by consecrating pagan temples for Christian worship and turning pagan festivals into feast days of martyrs. Canterbury was built on the site of an ancient church.
Augustine was more successful with the pagans than with the Christians. He found the ancient British Church, which had been driven into Cornwall and Wales, had strayed a little in its practices from Rome. He met with them several times to try to bring them back to the Roman Church but the old Church could not forgive their conquerors and chose isolation and bitterness over community and reconciliation.
Augustine was only in England for eight years before he died in 605. His feast day is celebrated on May 26 in England and May 28 elsewhere. He is also known as Austin,a name that many locations have adopted.
The fundamental dogma, on which everything in Christianity is based, is that of the Blessed Trinity in whose name all Christians are baptized. The feast of the Blessed Trinity needs to be understood and celebrated as a prolongation of the mysteries of Christ and as the solemn expression of our faith in this triune life of the Divine Persons, to which we have been given access by Baptism and by the Redemption won for us by Christ. Only in heaven shall we properly understand what it means, in union with Christ, to share as sons in the very life of God.
The feast of the Blessed Trinity was introduced in the ninth century and was only inserted in the general calendar of the Church in the fourteenth century by Pope John XXII. But the cultus of the Trinity is, of course, to be found throughout the liturgy. Constantly the Church causes us to praise and adore the thrice-holy God who has so shown His mercy towards us and has given us to share in His life.
Trinity Sunday The dogma of faith which forms the object of the feast is this: There is one God and in this one God there are three Divine Persons; the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. Yet there are not three Gods, but one, eternal, incomprehensible God! The Father is not more God than the Son, neither is the Son more God than the Holy Spirit. The Father is the first Divine Person; the Son is the second Divine Person, begotten from the nature of the Father from eternity; the Holy Spirit is the third Divine Person, proceeding from the Father and the Son. No mortal can fully fathom this sublime truth. But I submit humbly and say: Lord, I believe, help my weak faith.
Why is this feast celebrated at this particular time? It may be interpreted as a finale to all the preceding feasts. All three Persons contributed to and shared in the work of redemption. The Father sent His Son to earth, for "God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son." The Father called us to the faith. The Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, became man and died for us. He redeemed us and made us children of God. He ever remains the liturgist par excellence to whom we are united in all sacred functions. After Christ's ascension the Holy Spirit, however, became our Teacher, our Leader, our Guide, our Consoler. On solemn occasions a thanksgiving Te Deum rises spontaneously from Christian hearts.
The feast of the Most Holy Trinity may well be regarded as the Church's Te Deum of gratitude over all the blessings of the Christmas and Easter seasons; for this mystery is a synthesis of Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost. This feast, which falls on the first Sunday after Pentecost, should make us mindful that actually every Sunday is devoted to the honor of the Most Holy Trinity, that every Sunday is sanctified and consecrated to the triune God. Sunday after Sunday we should recall in a spirit of gratitude the gifts which the Blessed Trinity is bestowing upon us. The Father created and predestined us; on the first day of the week He began the work of creation. The Son redeemed us; Sunday is the "Day of the Lord," the day of His resurrection. The Holy Spirit sanctified us, made us His temple; on Sunday the Holy Spirit descended upon the infant Church. Sunday, therefore, is the day of the Most Holy Trinity.
Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch Symbols of the Trinity: Equilateral Triange; Circle of Eternity; Three interwoven Circles; Triangle in Circle; Circle within Triangle; Interwoven Circle and Triangle; Two Triangles interwoven in shape of Star of David; Two Triangles in shape of Star of David interwoven with Circle; Trefoil; Trefoil and Triangle; Trefoil with points; Triquetra; Triquetra and circle; Shield of the Holy Trinity; Three Fishes linked together in shape of a triangle; Cross and Triangle overlapping; Fleur de Lys; St. Patrick's Shamrock.
Feastday: May 26 Patron of Rome, US Special Forces, humor, joy Birth: July 21, 1515 Death: May 26, 1595 Beatified By: May 11, 1615 by Pope Paul V Canonized By: March 12, 1622 by Pope Gregory XV
St. Philip Neri was a Christian missionary and founder of the Congregation of the Oratory, a community of Catholic priests and lay brothers.
He was born in Florence on July 21, 1515 as one of four children to Francesco Neri.
From a very young age, Philip was known for being cheerful and obedient. He was affectionately referred to as "good little Phil." He received his early teachings from friars at the Dominican monastery in Florence, San Marco.
At 18-years-old, Philip went off to live with a wealthy family member in San Germano. He was sent there to assist in - and possibly inherit - the family business. However, soon after his arrival, Philip experienced a mystical vision, which he eventually spoke of as his Christian conversion. This event was an encounter with the Lord and it dramatically changed his life.
He soon lost interest in owning property or participating in business. He felt a call from the Holy Spirit to radically live for and serve the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church.
So, Philip set out for Rome.
Once in Rome, Philip was the live-in tutor for a fellow Florentine's sons. Under Philip's guidance, the two boys improved in all aspects of life and faith, proving Philip's special talent with human relationships and in bringing out the best in people.
During his first two years in Rome, Philip spent his time in a solitary life. He also dedicated a lot of time to prayer. He ate very small meals of bread, water and a few vegetables, practicing an ascetical life.
In 1535, Philip began studying theology and philosophy at the Sapienza and at St. Augustine's monastery. Although he was considered a "promising scholar," after three years of studies, Philip gave up any thought of ordination. He set out to help the poor people of Rome and to re-evangelize the city. Sadly, Rome had lost its first love and its inhabitants were no longer really living as Christians.
He began talking to people on street corners and in public squares; he made acquaintances in places where people commonly gathered.
Philip, compared to Socrates, had a knack for starting up conversations and leading his listeners to consider a new and better way of life, the Christian Way. He easily caught others' attention with his warm personality and incredible sense of humor. He encouraged groups of people to gather for discussions, studies, prayer and the enjoyment of music. His customary question was always, "Well, brothers, when shall we begin to do good?"
Losing no time in converting good conversation to good actions, Philip would lead his followers to hospitals to wait on the sick or to the Church, to pray to and encounter Jesus Christ.
In short, Philip was an evangelist. He loved to share the Gospel and help people to find or rediscover their faith in Jesus Christ.
His days were dedicated to helping others, but his nights were set aside for solitude spent praying in the church or in the catacombs beside the Appian Way.
In 1544, on the eve of Pentecost, Philip saw what appeared to be a globe of fire. It is said the fire entered his mouth, causing Philip to feel his heart dilate. Philip was filled with such paroxysms of divine love that caused him to scream out, "Enough, enough, Lord, I can bear no more." Philip then discovered a swelling over his heart, though it caused him no pain.
In 1548, with the help of his confessor, Father Persiano Rossa, Philip founded a confraternity for poor laymen to meet for spiritual exercises and service of the poor, the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity.
Philip's appealing nature won him over friends from all societal levels, including that of Ignatius of Loyola, Pius V and Charles Borromeo.
At 34-years-old, Philip had already accomplished so much, but his confessor was determined that his work would be more effective as a priest. Finally convinced, Philip was ordained to the diaconate and then to the priesthood on May 23, 1551.
From there, Philip went to live with Father Rossa and other priests at San Girolamo and carried on his mission, but mostly through the confessional.
Before sun up, until sun down, Philip spent hours sitting and listening to people of all ages. Sometimes Philip broke out informal discussions for those who desired to live a better life. He spoke to them about Jesus, the saints and the martyrs.
Influenced by St. Francis Xavier, Philip thought of going to India to join the foreign mission field, but was dissuaded by his peers because Rome still needed Philip's ministry and influence.
A large room was built above the church of San Girolamo to tend to Philip's growing number of pilgrims and other priests were called on to assist him. Philip and the priests were soon called the "Oratorians," because they would ring a bell to call the faithful in their "oratory."
The foundation of the Congregation of the Priests of the Oratory would be laid a few years later with members who encouraged others to deepen their faith. Philip's rule for them was simple - share a common table and to perform spiritual exercises. Philip didn't want his followers to bind themselves to the life with a vow and he did not want them to denounce their property.
Philip's organization was officially approved by Pope Gregory XIII in 1575.
The Congregation was given an ancient church, but Philip made the quick decision to demolish it because the structure was in ruins and the size was not large enough. He had plans of rebuilding on a larger scale. People from all over, including Charles Borromeo and Pope Gregory, contributed financially toward the rebuilding.
By April 1577, the New Church was completed enough for the Congregation of the Oratory to be transferred there, but Philip stayed at San Girolamo for another seven years.
Philip was constantly in a crowd of people; he allowed his followers free access to him and continued hearing confessions and engaging in ministry and prayer.
In the words of one of his biographers, Philip was "all things to all men.... When he was called upon to be merry, he was so; if there was a demand upon his sympathy, he was equally ready..."
Philip was respected and loved throughout Rome; he became a trusted advisor to popes, kings, cardinals and equally as important to the poor.
He whole-heartedly desired the reform of the Catholic Church and worked toward that with a sense of gentleness and friendship, rather than criticism and harshness.
His efforts to reach out to the lay people of Rome and not simply associate with the clergy made him one of the great figures in the Counter Reformation of the Catholic Church. Sadly, the Catholic Church had fallen into clericalism. He soon earned the title, "Apostle of Rome."
On the Feast of Corpus Christi, May 25, 1595, Philip was told by his physician that he was not healthy. He had not looked well for ten years. Philip realized his time had come to pass on to the Lord. For the remainder of the day, he listened to confessions and saw his visitors as normal.
Before heading off to bed, Philip stated, "Last of all, we must die."
Around midnight of May 26, 1595, Philip suffered from a hemorrhage and passed away at 80-years-old. His body lays in the New Church, where the Oratorians still serve.
St. Philip Neri was beatified by Pope Paul V on May 11, 1615 and canonized by Pope Gregory XV on March 12, 1622.
He is the patron saint of Rome, US Special Forces, humor and joy and his feast day is celebrated on May 26.